All the team at EA Sports did in 1991 for the game of golf was what they accomplished for a host of other sports: introduce a well-rounded title at the onset of the Super Nintendo’s life. While this may not seem like such a tall feat, by getting the groundwork right the first time, EA Sports not only garnered the trust of fans early in the 16-bit era but set themselves up for the success of following series titles. It will likely be remembered as the game to introduce the now standard three-click swing to the golf sub-genre. In short, what we have in PGA Tour Golf (PTG) is a straight-forward golf classic that set the mold for golfing titles to come.
The primary reason for PGT’s success is the sense of control given to the player. The three-click swing method enables the user not only to determine the power of the swing, but allows for ‘draw’ (from right to left) or ‘fade’ (vice versa). It also requires a sense of timing which challenges the player to be focused for each stroke. During any stroke one can use the suggested club or opt for any other type-appropriate club in your bag. When it gets to crunch time, there is a putting green terrain viewer which the player can use to make a highly calculated shot to snag that birdie. The bevy of user options balances with luck of the draw, giving the player a rewarding feeling for shots well stroked.
There’s nothing worse in a sports title than having the one flaw that keeps your game from progressing, so practice mode allows for the fine-tuning of your putting or driving skills. Then in the single-hole mode, the user can put these skills together. The main feature is the tournament, where the user tees off against 90 licensed golf pros in a one-course or multi-course quest for cash prizes. Finally, up to four friends can hop into the golf cart and play a round in multi-player mode, a necessity for any respectable sports title.
If there is a part of the PTG package that does not excel it would have to be the visuals. The ball-following camera does a satisfactory job of viewing the terrain post-stroke, especially the clouds overhead. Yet the animation, particularly the golfer’s swing, will come across as choppy to gamers 20-plus years later. EA Sports attempts to balance this by allowing for alternative viewing screens: there is both a birds-eye map which helps strategize a drive, as well as a terrain map for when you get to the green. There’s not a whole lot to speak of in terms of the audio. Birds are heard offering a pastoral chirp, and the crowd will give a clap worthy of your finish. Other than this, we’re gifted with a rather peaceful golfing environment.
An element that is highly endearing to me about PTG is the subtle flairs for the dramatic it presents. When it comes to putting it home, there are a variety of animation sequences that depict how close you’ve gotten. If you’re unfortunate enough to lip the cup on a miss, the crowd will groan in empathy. They’re also quick to cheer for a birdie, are dead silent for a bogey, and offer a polite ‘golfer’s clap’ for making par. EA Sports infuses additional drama by having one of eight different golfers offer their expertise in how to approach the next hole. As always, the EA Sports desk is spear-headed by the big man Bing Gordon himself, who hypes each tournament with championship-caliber finesse.
PTG has a reasonably high replay factor due to its difficulty level. As the saying goes, a good game is easy to get into but difficult to master. It’s necessary to take wind, clubs, and terrain into account for each swing. Golf is a game requiring tremendous patience and consistency, and the same goes for PTG. It’s paramount to stay neck and neck with the competition, as there are no grand slams or three-point plays to quickly make up ground. It’s also necessary to put extra time into improving your chipping game, as I found that the most difficult to master. For those who pass all tests with flying colors, perhaps a round of speed golf is in order, where the word is go, go, go!
All told, PGA Tour Golf is a complete golfing title that is well worth revisiting today. While some may have a preference toward the Links series or the SNES’s own Jack Nicklaus golf, PGT is as simple as it is fair and challenging to the gamer. Those needing their golf injected with fantasy elements will always be drawn to Mario Golf. But those of us who are content to hit the fairway old school, under a spry cloud covering with the birds chirping us encouragement, PGA Tour Golf is the right stroke indeed.
Four out of Five Stars
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